One of the most powerful scenes of the New Testament is perceived from the eyes of a Roman centurion. He wasn’t one of the twelve apostles. He certainly wasn’t part of the “inner circle” with Peter, James, and John. Most likely, he hadn’t seen the miracles or heard the sermons. He was only doing his job—overseeing the execution of Jesus.
Yet after Calvary’s earthquake had already shook the ground like marbles. After the temple curtain had torn in two like scratch paper. After dead bodies rose from the tombs and walked the streets of Jerusalem, the Roman centurion was terrified and made this remark, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54)
To his credit, this was a monumental confession. A confession many had not yet made. A confession even the apostles would struggle to make until the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. But there was a problem with his confession. The Roman centurion didn’t say, “Surely, he IS the Son of God!” No, his statement was “Surely, he WAS the Son of God!” It was past tense. After it had happened. After it had been proven by the storms and sights around him.
Why was the centurion a “was” man instead of an “is” man? Circumstances. It had everything to do with details, not deity. He believed based on facts rather than faith. For it was after the evidence was presented that his confirmation was delivered, not before. He was a “circumstantial centurion.” A confessing centurion, of course, but still circumstantial.
Luckily for him, his tardy testimony wasn’t too late for forgiveness. After the death of Jesus and the beginning of the church, a plan of salvation would be laid out before him and the rest of the world. We hope and pray he took it. But for many today, they may not be so lucky. For the centurion, once Jesus died, he still had a chance. But for us, if we die before we obey, we won’t have time to right the wrong. We’re all living on borrowed time and we all have a date with death. Obedience doesn’t wait for those who miss the boat.
Don’t allow circumstances of life to keep you from making the confession which leads to life. If we must see and experience the evidence before we believe, is it really belief at all? Is it really faith? The writer of Hebrews doesn’t seem to think so. He writes, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Read that carefully. Not certain of what we DO see. Certain of what we DON’T see.
Circumstantial faith keeps us from the Father. So don’t be a “was” man. Be an “is” man. Someone who says right now—while they have the chance—“Surely, he IS the Son of God.”